The Way I See It Review – Pete Souza, one of the few people in the room where it happens, tells us what no longer happens
“The job of the official White House Photographer is to take authentic photographs.” – Pete Souza
I will do my best to keep my political side objective in this, but as Pete Souza actively criticizes and condemns the current President, I am fully aware of the bias. However, like Pete Souza, I have a complex history with both major political parties and what I aim to focus on is the stark contrast of the people. That being said, I’ll spoil my The Way I See It review for anyone who feels this subject matter is too political, or that are triggered by “mainstream” media, and tell you all I love this documentary.
The Way I See It is a documentary based on the books Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents and Obama: An Intimate Portrait, both authored by Pete Souza. The documentary is directed by Dawn Porter, who takes us on Pete’s journey on becoming a White House Photographer, a position Pete Souza helped develop into the incredible and, speaking from a PR standpoint, necessary position. Pete Souza was the official White House Photographer for President Ronald Reagan and President Barack Obama. He captured the work and lives of arguably the most Republican and most Democratic Presidents of recent times. Souza’s journey to working for Reagan and his time there is not a major focus of the film, but it is often referenced and contrasted to his time with President Obama and the current President.
The main focus of the film is about Souza’s journey of becoming Obama’s White House Photographer, his time and experience at the job, and his current outspokenness on the current president. Souza’s journey with Obama being when Obama was elected to the Senate. Souza was assigned to shoot Senator Obama and capture his work and experience for a year. Souza was with Obama during his rise and eventual announcement of his presidential candidacy. This then leads to him being Obama’s White House Photographer, where he spent eight years essentially on call to capture the work and life of the president. There are numerous stories that aren’t really political, but just in general wholesome. One story, in particular, is about Souza’s wedding. The film informs us that Obama encouraged his people to get married. Souza had a long-time girlfriend but just hadn’t gotten around to marriage yet. Obama, Souza, and Michelle Obama were chatting when Obama tells Souza to have the wedding in The Rose Garden and he’ll officiate. Souza, kind of brushes off the notion which causes Obama to say to Michelle Obama to say something along the lines of, “You believe this guy? The Rose Garden isn’t good enough for him.” Then we are shown clips and photos of Souza’s wedding.
Following his time as Obama’s White House Photographer, we cover Souza’s Instagram. Which began as attempts at being humorous by highlighting the contrast of the current president with the former.
“When I first started out, I was trying to be humorous with my comments… The photographs that I post on Instagram now and the words that I write, I think speak for themselves. And I think I’ve gotten more and more out there, making it pretty damn clear how I feel.” – Pete Souza
But the stark contrast resonated more and more and gathered lots of attention. As the contrast grew more stark, Souza began becoming more political. Which leads to his books and to his current endeavors today.
“I’ve never been overtly political and now I am political. I’m gonna make sure that everybody knows that what this guy is doing, is not only not normal, but is really dangerous to the country. This is a serious job, being the president. I’m gonna do everything I can that people don’t forget that.” -Pete Souza
The Way I See It can easily be perceived as a film glorifying Barrack Obama, which I have to say everyone in the film seems to have nothing but nice things to say. However, what I think is the key point to recognize, is that the focus is not on Obama’s policies or political accomplishments, except for some focus on the Affordable Care Act. The focus is on the humanity, empathy, and innate leadership qualities Obama exhibits that were also exhibited by Ronald Reagan and is undeniably absent in the current president.
Pete Souza offers a truly unique perspective on the presidency, one that nearly no other person gets. Souza is generally always in “the room where it happens” and captures the actual moment. Something that is no longer possible in the current administration. There’s a scene where Souza contrasts photos in the situation room, where the current president poses with his staff for a “reaction” shot. From the angle it was taken, the photographer would be covering the object in which the people would be reacted to. Then we see Souza’s shot of President Obama and his team. There you can see genuine reactions and the angle the photo would have to be taken from in order to not be covering the object of focus. It’s a powerful contrast. Souza has seen how two very different Presidents did the job and is able to see what the current President is and isn’t doing. It is a truly unique, but more importantly, relevant point of view; one that I think is important to consider and understand.
What Souza focuses on, and what I understood the film to also focus on, is the humanity of the President. We, as a society, tend to dehumanize elected officials. We tend to forget they are people, one of us, just one that we chose to represent us. They are human. I have always found great leaders to be people we do not distinguish as different as ourselves, but people we recognize as someone who chose to be more and influence others to be more as well. They aren’t leading because they choose to be in the front, they are leading because they get people to move forward. Charisma and likability are major factors in that, and Reagan and Obama had those qualities in spades. But what I think elevates them and what also elevated their presidencies is their empathy. And in my personal opinion, and in countless examples throughout the film, the current president is undeniably lacking any sort of empathy.
“There is no substitute for empathy. It is a foundational relationship between human beings. And to know that the guy who’s running the show cares enough, to not just come and visit, but to let you know that he cares about you… that he cares about your wife… that he cares about your 9-year old kid. We are so good at dismissing the people that we elect to serve us. We’re so good at turning them into things that aren’t people. And we have to be very careful about that. Because when you do that, you get the elected officials that you deserve.” -David Wheeler, Father of Sandy Hook Victim
On a personal note, I want to commend Pete Souza for his current work. Souza has effectively taken action that guarantees he will no longer be able to work as a photojournalist. His personal politics are now widely known, and it’s hard for someone with renown for their opinions to be unbiased in journalism. But as a person who has such a deep-seated knowledge of the job of being the president and the life of it, to share that experience is noble. It is an inside look at our country’s most prominent figure. Political leanings aside, I believe it is a necessary perspective, and not above being critiqued and scrutinized, but also should be questioned as to why it is essentially absent and prevented now.
“Since leaving the White House, I made this conscious decision, that I couldn’t not say anything, that I couldn’t not speak out.” -Pete Souza
The Way I See It is a powerful documentary that tells the story and point of view of someone who has one of the deepest insights and access to the most powerful position in the world. Souza was tasked with capturing the work and life of two Presidents of the United States. He was there for the best and worst of it all. While many skeptics may see this film as glorifying the previous president, and I won’t deny there is an obvious bias, I would say it only seems so in contrast. The bar only seems higher because the bottom has been dropped so low. The Way I See It gives its viewers a truly unique perspective into history, the work and life of our country’s most powerful position, and a contextual contrast to our current president. My The Way I See It review gets a 4.75/5
“It was all about the dignity of the office of the presidency. Especially for young people. I didn’t want them to think ‘This is the way the President is supposed to behave.’ No, it’s not!”-Pete Souza
The Way I See It Review
The Way I See It is a powerful documentary that tells the story and point of view of someone who has one of the deepest insights and access to the most powerful position in the world. Souza was tasked with capturing the work and life of two Presidents of the United States. He was there for the best and worst of it all. While many skeptics may see this film as glorifying the previous president, and I won’t deny there is an obvious bias, I would say it only seems so in contrast. The bar only seems higher because the bottom has been dropped so low. The Way I See It gives its viewers a truly unique perspective into history, the work and life of our country’s most powerful position, and a contextual contrast to our current president.